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Class 4a: Natural Resources
and the Economy
• Primary economic activity
• Resource-based economies (Gabon)
• Agriculture and trade (Chile)
Economic geography
• How do people earn a living?
– Physical environment
– Cultural conditions
– Technology
– Politics/economic system
• How does that vary by place?
• How does it connect places?
Economic geography
• Primary economic activity
– Closest contact with natural resources
– Generally, lowest income
• Secondary: value added (manufacturing)
• Tertiary: services for primary or secondary
• Quaternary: information-based services
Primary economic activity
• “Gathering” industries
– Fishing
– Forestry
• Commercial vs. subsistence
• Potentially renewable resources
• Maximum sustainable yield
• Protein for 1 billion people
• Inland 6%, aquaculture 23%, oceans 71%
• Tragedy of the commons
Commercial use or fuelwood
Coniferous (softwood) for paper, lumber
Deciduous (hardwood) for furniture, etc.
Tropical hardwood for fuelwood, furniture
– And clearing land
Tropical forests
• Land and fuel under pressure from growing
• Beef more profitable than timber
• Gone: Central America 70%, Asia 50%,
Africa 50%, South America 40%
Tropical forests
• Forests as carbon sink
• Rain forests and biodiversity
– Costa Rica birds = North America
– 72 species of ant on Peruvian tree
• Medical resources
• Ecotourism
Primary economic activity
• “Extractive” industries
– Mining
– Quarrying (gravel, sand)
• Nonrenewable resources
• Huge capital investment: then what?
Resource-based economies
Multiple scales (from countries to towns)
Dependent on one commodity
Volatile commodity prices
Boom-and-bust cycles
Need value-added activity
Example: Antofagasta, Chile
• Founded in 19th century
for nitrate mining
• Wealth led to Chile’s
first banks
• Chemical substitutes by
• Port for Bolivia
Example: Antofagasta, Chile
• New technology made
copper mining possible
• Nationalized in 1970s
• 1990 boom when
reopened to private
• Today: 9% of GDP,
33% of world copper
• But: foreign investment,
no value-added
• About 1/3 of Earth’s land
• Subsistence, traditional, commercial
Subsistence agriculture
• Your responsibility!
• Extensive vs. intensive
• Nomadic herding, shifting cultivation,
intensive subsistence
• Where and why
Commercial agriculture
Maximizing profit, not food security
Specialization by location
Off-farm sales
Interdependence of producers and consumers
• Focus on minimizing risk
– Producers want standard products
– Farmers want guaranteed markets
• Contracts between farmers and corporations
• Political pressure for subsidies
• Political pressure on health
Von Thünen’s land use model
• German landowner in 1800s
• Noticed pattern of agricultural land use
• Three assumptions:
– Isolated city (no trade)
– Surrounded by homogenous landscape
– All that matters is transport costs
Land value
Distance from market
Land value
Distance from market
Land value
Distance from market
Land value
Distance from market
Land value
Distance from market
Land value
Distance from market
Von Thünen’s land use model
So what?
Connections between city and country
General patterns of agriculture
Can be applied to urban settings, too
Decreased transport costs make the pattern